Whether it is James Bond strolling into the Casino Royale or George Clooney’s Danny Ocean masterminding heists that could never happen, Hollywood moviemakers are captivated by gambling. They simply love it. And why wouldn’t they? Gambling, and especially live casino gambling, delivers so many mouth-watering ingredients – glamour, drama, excitement and a cast of characters that is the envy of almost every other genre.
And so, as it is the awards season and the news pages on our website are filled with the names of worthy winners, we thought we would lighten the mood, and nominate our Top 3 All-time Gambling Movies. And putting both Mr. Bond and Gorgeous George to one side, as a B2B publication we thought we would get serious about the business and choose movies that also get serious about the business. And just to show that the business truly is as exciting as we all know it to be, nine of these selections is fictional, each is based on true life events.
21: Director, Robert Luketic
In third place is the 2008 heist drama, 21, starring Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess and Laurence Fishburne. Inspired by the true story of a team of exceptional mathematics students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that use a combination of exceptional card counting skills and covert communication to beat the Las Vegas casinos at blackjack. Shot in actual Vegas locations, this is the best movie about blackjack ever made. It’s a fantastic film and if you haven’t seen it then you should. Interestingly, the casinos were very supportive of the movie, which they saw as promoting both casual and serious blackjack play. And also, the producers left certain key card counting strategies out of the final script, so don’t expect the movie to teach you how to beat the system.
Molly’s Game: Director, Aaron Sorkin
In second place, another movie based on a true story is 2017’s Molly’s Game. And what a story this is. Starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, the film tracks Molly Bloom’s journey as she builds an underground poker empire before a downward spiral begins, including drug addiction, involvement with the Russian mafia and an FBI investigation. Another outstanding film, Jessica Chastain is superb in the lead role and the fact that the script is based on real events, that reportedly involved a Ponzi scheme and a bunch of Hollywood actors, just adds to the appeal of this superb film.
Casino: Director, Martin Scorsese
Was the winner every really in doubt? In our view, this is the greatest movie about the casino gambling industry that has been made to date. It is a masterpiece, with a genius – Scorsese – at the helm and a stellar cast, led brilliantly by the peerless Robert de Niro and superbly supported by Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. Also inspired by a true story, of Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, who managed the Fremont, Hacienda and Stardust casinos in Las Vegas back in the 1970s and 80s. De Niro’s lead character, Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein, and the movie follows his management of a casino on behalf of the Chicago mob, the challenges he encounters and the gradual collapse of all he holds dear as the ‘persona’ of Las Vegas modernises. The authenticity is incredible – most of the scenes were shot at the Riviera – and the celebrated critic, Roger Ebert, said that “it makes us feel like eavesdroppers in a secret place.” We had no hesitation in naming Casino as our No.1 All-time Gambling Movie.